Two civilians in a township in Myanmar’s Kayin State died Friday after being hit by mortar shells fired by junta troops. Other locals were injured as they were caught in the crossfire between the two sides fighting for control of Kawkareik.
Fighting started on Tuesday but intensified Friday morning with State Administration Council (SAC) forces carrying out aerial bombardments, according to an official from a local aid group, who didn’t want to be named for safety reasons,
“We didn’t dare to leave the room. The fighting kept intensifying around the town and the military was bombing with fighter jets. It is still happening now,” the official said.
“[The] injured were sent to hospital in four vehicles, but two [who were hit by shells] died there. All four of the vehicles that were sent to the hospital were unable to leave.”
The battle comes amid an upturn in fighting between junta forces and the Karen National Union’s (KNU) military arm, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).
“At around 1 p.m., all departmental offices in Kawkareik town were occupied by the KNU /KNLA forces. They are preparing to attack the SAC’s Infantry Battalion 97, which is stationed in the town,” a soldier who is fighting in the battle told RFA.
“Our side is attacking from the south and north of Kawkareik town. There are general administration offices for the township, and district and housing offices there. They have all have been occupied… The SAC’s Infantry Battalion-97 is next to those offices. We are preparing to attack them. They don’t have many forces in the town,” he said, adding that the KNLA has also occupied the prison in Kawkareik’s police station.
Junta forces are targeting the occupied buildings, sending 20 fighter jets in six waves of airstrikes. The aerial attacks and four days of fighting have caused traffic jams on the road running from Yangon to Myawaddy township, which lies on the Thai border. A passenger, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told RFA many cars and trucks had been stuck in Kawkareik since Tuesday. About 500 passengers were left stranded at the side of the road.
The SAC has not released a statement on the fighting and calls to Saw Khin Maung Myint, the SAC spokesman for Kayin State, went unanswered.
The Institute for Strategy and Policy-Myanmar reported on Thursday that there have been more than 7,700 battles across the country since the Feb. 1, 2021 military coup through to Oct. 12 this year. The research group said Kayin State has seen the most fighting with 4,383 battles.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By RFA Burmese.